How Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Re-Engineering Education in America

Technology entrepreneurs are influencing what content and how schools teach through philanthropy.

June 8, 2017 5:00 am
Tech entrepreneurs are experimenting with education in schools. (Getty Images)
Tech entrepreneurs are experimenting with education in schools. (Getty Images)

The disruptors are out to fix America’s education system.

Tech entrepreneurs are using their philanthropies to change teaching style, subject matter, and tools that students use in classrooms around the country. Using similar business techniques that worked so well for their companies, the Silicon Valley titans’ trend in schools has been adopted rapidly. But they’ve also been adopted without much scrutiny, raising concerns about efficacy and business ethics.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, is testing software in 100 different schools that makes students responsible for their own education and turns the role of a teacher into one of a guidance counselor or mentor. Meanwhile, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is promoting an algorithm-determined curriculum for teaching Math in states like Virgina and Texas.

According to the New York Times, principals in San Fransisco schools are acting more like start-up founders than school administrators after Salesforce’s Marc Benioff started doling out $100,00 grants to reward innovation.

All of these examples are experiments driven by an engineering-like approach to fixing the American educational system, turning students into beta-testers. The New York Times reports that the pilot programs are selected with little research to suggest they improve schooling and without giving the school district’s power to roll them back.

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